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Using Hybrid Open Source GIS Systems with Boundless

A discussion I find myself having more and more with customers is how best to migrate to a hybrid architecture based on a combination of both proprietary and open-source technologies.  Customers have realized that building a platform with both proprietary and open-source tools can help an organization reduce risk and add value in several ways:

  • Avoiding Single Vendor Lock-in
  • Reducing Costs Associated with Licensing
  • Promoting Interoperability with Existing Software and Architecture

In your typical proprietary environment, beyond just software license costs there are additional, sometimes hidden, costs captured in the graphic below.  While individual costs may be nominal, they can add up and ultimately affect the total cost of ownership of a solely proprietary solution.


Customers are also realizing that hybrid architectures allow for more gradual, risk-appropriate migration strategies.  In other words, you do not have to rip and replace all of your existing proprietary software for all open-source software.  Many times this is impossible due to specific feature limitations, a steep learning curve, or it’s simply just too cost prohibitive. So I encourage customers to consider implementing only portions of their architecture at a time, and only where it makes sense to do so.

Remember that the OpenGeo Suite includes software at the database, application server, and user interface tier that do not have strict dependencies on each other.  This means you can focus on integrating open-source one tier at a time without interrupting the entire enterprise.  I see many customers start at the database tier because changes are largely ‘hidden’ to the end user.  They are still using the same user interface they are accustomed to, but are in many cases unknowingly connecting to a different end point to retrieve their data.  Everybody wins.

Still other organizations have realized that the best migration point is at the user interface tier.  They are not leveraging the value of expensive proprietary applications because their users require and use only a fraction of the potential capabilities.  In other words, they are paying for a Ferrari, when they could easily use a Vespa.  Hybrid migration strategies targeted at non-power users can quickly realize significant savings in license costs.

It is worth adding that adopting this hybrid approach early on in the evolution of your architecture ensures more choices for migration and an overall cost savings.  The old FRAM oil filter commercials of the 1970’s just popped into my head, “You can pay me now, or you can pay me (a lot more) later”.

While the why of migrating to a hybrid architecture is generally understood, I tend to get a lot of questions from customers regarding the how.  Boundless architects will happily sit one-on-one with you to discuss the specifics of your migration, but this is also one area where Boundless Professional Services can greatly help.  Our expert technologists will work side-by-side with your team to guarantee that best practices are met at every phase of your project, and that you make the most of your investment in OpenGeo Suite and Boundless.  We’ve handled engagements of all sizes, and can tailor them to meet the needs of your organization.  Consider the following packages to help your migration to a hybrid architecture:

  • Migration Assessment: Most organizations we see are not starting from scratch. This package will capture details about your as-is state, and understand where you want to go.  Perhaps you are looking to migrate your database from Oracle to PostGIS, or migrate from ArcGIS Server to GeoServer.  To ensure comprehensive coverage, we will document details about your current missions and business goals, legacy, users and workflows, present costs of your software inventory, as well as any indirect infrastructure and software costs.  Finally, as a best practice to ensure quality of communication, we will prepare a comprehensive report containing an executive summary, findings, a plan for incremental migration and any relevant risk mitigation strategies.
  • OpenGeo Suite Pilot: Customers don’t always know the art of the Possible and what they can actually achieve with OpenGeo Suite. Getting up and running with OpenGeo Suite can be as simple as running an installer, but what do you do from there? This package accelerates your understanding of Boundless capabilities and provides a picture of your future solution via hands-on activity. Whether you already have a geospatial technology legacy or starting from scratch, we help you stand up a working demo, get necessary experience using your own data and plan next steps
  • Architecture & Design Review: The Architecture and Design Review is a tool for your team to discover your solution’s strengths and areas of improvement. During this engagement, our senior engineers review your requirements and will answer any questions you have at this critical phase. You will benefit from improved solution architecture, improved infrastructure design, and best practices most relevant to your solution giving your architects and developers confidence to embark on the implementation.
  • Scale Up & Out: Many customers are getting ready for the cloud or are looking to optimize OpenGeo Suite in an elastic environment. We can review and benchmark your spatial IT infrastructure, and give you the advice you need to parallelize, how to set up high availability and how to configure your services for maximum performance and fault-tolerance. This package is for those getting ready to run GeoServer and/or PostGIS in parallel clusters, and for those looking to squeeze more performance from their existing infrastructure. We will measure and benchmark as-is performance of your OpenGeo Suite deployment, diagnose and resolve performance bottlenecks and help you migrate to an improved configuration.

There are additional Professional Services packages available for review on our website, and Boundless can work to customize or combine these packages to best fit your organization’s needs.

One final thought worth mentioning.  Many customers I have talked to think this migration will happen quickly, in a matter of weeks or even months.  But the reality I’ve witnessed is depending on the complexity of your data, current architecture, availability of resources, and the end user applications the process could take significantly longer.  This is not necessarily a bad thing, and you can use it to your advantage.  By completing your migration in phases you won’t shock your end users into a big change all at once.  It also gives you plenty of ability to adjust and adapt as challenges arise.  You can see an example of a notional timeline below.
Bottom line; a hybrid platform built on both proprietary and open source tools can help an organization reduce risk and add value in several ways.  Boundless has experience implementing hybrid architectures of all sizes, and has a staff that can help assess your migration path as well.  Packages from Boundless Professional Services are a great way to kick start that migration and point you in the right direction right from the start.

Anthony Calamito

Chief Evangelist

Anthony serves as the Chief Evangelist & VP of Product for Boundless and is responsible for product strategy and outreach, educational initiatives, and our ongoing commitment to the open source community.  Anthony is also a Steering Committee member at LocationTech, and and a Fellow of the American Geographical Society. His commitment to geography education and community outreach extends beyond Boundless -- he is also an adjunct instructor at George Mason University.